digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 15, 2018 06:47:35
With Roz, Duncan, Tav, Nick, Brockers and
I went with Roz to the new extension of An
Unexpected Development to take some photo’s, Duncan, Tav and Jon went to Trick
or Treat area to continue with the survey, Brockers and Nick went down the rift
to start building a wall and do a bit of digging.
Photo’s done, ended up at the top of the rift
where we met Jon emerging from the annex chamber. Nick and Brockers ascended
the pitch and before leaving the cave, a loose boulder was removed from a
precarious situation and some more loose gravel and cobbles cleared from the
head of the pitch.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 12, 2018 11:09:40
With Brockers, Nick, Jonathon, Duncan, Tav
A bit of a consolidation session was planned
for this morning. Brockers and Nick set off into An Unexpected Development
descending the rift to start digging at the bottom, Brockers re-rigged the
ladder and line on the way. Jon and I helped carry tools to the rift before
marking-out a pathway to avoid the formations along the approach passage to the
rift. Duncan and Tav were surveying, while Alex went to some less well visited
areas in the cave to collect the tat that has left behind, a cave de-clutter is
going to be done.
To the right-hand side of the breakthrough
point into An Unexpected Development, another small gap had been noticed. While
surveying on Wednesday evening, Duncan and Tav had recorded a length
of 6m with the Disto X, an upper continuation of the passage beyond some
calcite formations. Me and Jon decided to enlarge the gap and see what lay
beyond. After clearing away the loose gravel and cobbles we encountered a
rather obstinate boulder that, at first, I thought was solid floor, but after
scratching around it for a while, I managed to jam the small pick under an edge
and it moved. Eventually, we managed to remove the boulder and with a bit more
digging I was able to wriggle through into the passage beyond. I went forward a
few metres to look around a left corner and returned, “better get the others” I
said to Jon, who was busy enlarging the squeeze. Jon went to the rift and
called down to Brockers and Nick. When they reached us, Brockers went on to find
Duncan, Tav and Alex. Jon and I continued to enlarge the squeeze and wait for
the team to arrive.
We were sat at the corner, when voices could
be heard from a small hole above us, there is a connection to the small rift
chamber before the low crawl to An Unexpected Development. All assembled,
Brockers led the way followed by Alex and the rest of the team. A sizeable well
decorated chamber was entered. There were some big formations, again with
evidence of fracture and re-growth. Around a right-hand corner the passage
closed-down, although continuations beyond some calcite formations and a low
sediment filled bedding were noticed it was thought these probably led to known
sections of the cave. Later, the survey confirmed this. Not worth pursuing. While
Duncan and Tav surveyed the new section, I went to join Brockers and Nick
digging at the bottom of the rift, Jon and Alex continued with the
It was soon time to exit the cave. On the
surface, a brief discussion as the cave was secured, 30m is the surveyed
length of the new extension, 80m in a week. Another very satisfying session!
Below, the latest line survey carried out by Duncan and Tav, later, drawn by Tav.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, August 10, 2018 06:57:46
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Thu, August 09, 2018 07:05:54
With Roz, Nick, Mike, Tav, Jon, Brockers,
Duncan and Alex.
Photographs by Roz.
A big group assembled tonight but, plenty of
room in the cave. Between us we dragged enough kit to rig several pitches. Nick
leading the way followed by Mike and Roz, the rest of us were in the cave on
Saturday when the breakthrough was made. They were impressed.
At the rift, Nick and Mike descended to the
jammed boulder, while Brockers and I put in a bolt and tied-off another
hand-line (later, a ladder was put in place). We then descended to the jammed
boulder, bolted and rigged a ladder and line for the descent to the bottom of
the rift. Nick descended first. From the bottom of the ladder, a steeply sloping
floor goes down northwards. The floor is comprised of very loose, very
shattered calcite flowstone and other formations, probably the result of earth
movements (or frost shatter). The way on is choked, more digging will be
required yet. We spent some time removing several boulders, cobbles and gravel,
a gap can be seen and there is good air movement. We can remain optimistic.
Meanwhile, Duncan and Tav were surveying the
latest discovery, c.50m of passage, this brings recent progress to c.90m, good
When the team had had their fill, photo’s
taken, it was time to exit. It’s a proper caving trip now. To the Hunter’s for
refreshments, of course.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 05, 2018 08:29:32
An unexpected development!
With Jonathon, Duncan, Tav, Brockers and
The first task of the day was to set-up a
drag tray to make the digging in the low bedding a bit easier. That done, I
went into the bedding and filled the skip, Jon then hauled the full skip back
to the rift chamber and bagged the contents, the bags then sent on their way to
be stashed in the entrance. The spoil mostly comprised variable sized lumps and
slabs of degraded and fractured calcite flowstone, occasionally some finer
sediment. Progress along the low bedding was quite rapid and it wasn’t too long
before I was able to gain access to the roomier chamber on the south-side
(wrong direction). A quick scan of the chamber, some gardening to make it more
comfortable, then, at the base of a marl-filled fissure a small gap was
noticed, beyond which a mud-covered floor could be seen. “There has been an
unexpected development” I called back to Jon, who followed me through into the
chamber, later Duncan joined us. I pulled some rocks from the small gap and
soon it was just big enough to wriggle through on my back kicking finer
sediment ahead of me. I was gobsmacked by what I saw, a roomy chamber with some
very fine formations, at the end, an opening to a continuation, the air was
cool. Jon and Duncan followed me through, it was decided that we should get the
others and Duncan went back to get them. While we were waiting the access-point
The team was soon assembled in the chamber,
there was excitement, Jon led on through the window into the space beyond,
taking care to avoid a rather fine, but vulnerable, stalactite. I followed Jon
and was surprised to see him standing-up, “got a ladder” he said. He was
standing on the edge of a rift c.15-20m deep. Everyone came through and it was
an exhilarating experience after all these years. Tav tentatively descended the
slope with Alex but they decided a handline was required and came back-up,
Brockers went back to the sit-up chamber to get a rope. Meanwhile, I partly
descended to the slope and dug my way into an annex chamber, a continuation of
the main rift. I returned to find the handline was in place and climbed down to
a jammed rock part way down the rift, from the boulder a clear drop to the
floor below. It was decided that we should return with bolts and ladders so
that a safe descent to the bottom could be made. A traverse across the rift and
scan with a torch revealed what looks to be a continuation, but that will be confirmed
later in the week. We exited the cave to clear the bags from the entrance,
perhaps for the last time.
After the survey had been carried-out a
couple of weeks ago, Tav had mentioned that we really needed to go north or go
down – well the cave has done both of those. Just goes to show persistence pays
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 29, 2018 09:13:56
With Alex, Jonathon, Jake and Brockers.
Alex digging, lowering the floor of the rift
to be able to get into the passage beyond. Meanwhile, there was a backlog of
spoil to shift from Thursday’s activities. I loaded the skip to Jonathon who
hauled it along to the sit-up chamber, there he transferred the load to another
skip hauled by Jake to the slope. Jake then man-handled the load up the slope,
into another skip down to Paul on the haul and shuttle. Pouring a little water
down the passage makes the skip hauling much easier. The spoil was stacked at
the bottom of the entrance to be removed later.
Eventually, Alex made enough room to gain
access to the low passage and make some forward progress. Filling a couple of
bags then dragging them back, sometimes with a few stones too, and passed them
up to me in the rift where the spoil was dispatched on its journey to the
At the end of the session, I swapped places
with Alex to have a look at the dig. Wriggled forward over some lumpy sediment,
brushed loose stuff aside and gained another couple of metres in the low, but
wide, passage. Can’t really see the full extent to the left and ahead, a lot
more clearance required, but to the right it does appear roomier, in-line with
the east/west rift. There is a big stal boss on the floor and I think some
cryogenic crystals on the roof – need my specs to see properly, next session,
bring the camera too.
It was time to make our way out of the cave
and to clear the pile of bags and rocks from the entrance. Thirty-nine bags
were hauled out and emptied, Jon had used a couple to fill holes along the haul
route to ease the passage of the skip. There were lots of rocks too, but no-one
was counting, at least thirty probably. Plenty of wall building material now
available. It had been another good session, but not the passage gained as hoped,
still plenty to do.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, July 27, 2018 06:50:13
Due to meetings, work commitments and some
other reasons the Wookey Hole digging team was rather depleted only Jake and
Jonathon were available. Not much the two of them could achieve in the sand dig
in 20 so they went to Hallowe’en Rift.
At the draughting dig, the floor was lowered,
the filled bags and rock stacked in any space available, and the large slab of
degraded flowstone removed and reduced to more manageable pieces. The way ahead
is still obstructed but the digging is easier, mostly smaller slabs and finer
The team were enthused when we met-up later
after the progress meeting with Wookey Hole Caves.
The survey drawn by Tav, latest section in red 40m, overall cave length 220m.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 25, 2018 06:45:46
With Jake and Tav
I wanted to look at the current dig to see
whether an application of IRS might be required and to photograph the fractured
stal in the north/south rift at the [current] furthest point of the passage,
perhaps evidence for earth movements. Jake is off to Scotland for a month, also
wanted to get a good look at the current dig. Tav thought it a good time to get
some surveying done. We did all those things. About 40m of passage surveyed. A
good evening and the prospects ahead look very encouraging.
The way forward is obstructed by some slabs
of degrading flowstone, they are loose but there’s not quite enough space to
shift them. The floor can be dug-out to give more room for progress to be made.
About 4m ahead there appears to be more space and there is cool air movement.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 23, 2018 15:41:19
I had spent the early part of the week (16th-19th)
at the University of Sheffield Zooarchaeology Labs attending an intensive but
informative course “The History of the British Fauna: wild and domesticate
vertebrates”. The course was delivered through lectures and practical sessions.
Following the three-day course, a visit to
Creswell Crags, including a tour of the museum and caves to see the faunal
remains and some of Britain’s oldest ‘cave-art’
Unfortunately, the latter part of the week
was marred by some negative correspondences, which meant I wasn’t really in the
mood to go digging in Hallowe’en Rift. Others did, and their report follows:
“John, Jake, Paul, Alex
Paul and Jake went to the new chamber, where
Paul started digging in the floor’
Whilst Jake loaded the spoil in to skips that
passed to Alex at the stal boss and thence to John who stacked them on the
slope. After 26 bags and 13 skip-loads of rock had been removed, the
whole team then moved back and cleared the days efforts out of the entrance.
It was noticed that whilst Paul was removing spoil from the pot, the
draught increased considerably, making things very chilly indeed; Moving Jake
to complain of having white finger.
The prospects ahead look very good, with 3-4
metres of passage being visible, with airspace of 5-6 inches over a bed of rock
slabs and stal, overlying gravel.”
Tav, obviously with too much time on his
hands, came up with the following statistics:
“Based on your blog here's a list of the
number of trips (i.e. time and effort) expended by the current team since 1991.
Vince - 478 trips; Tav – 217; Jake – 214; Alex
– 173; Nick – 166; Jon – 86; Brockers – 64; Matt – 39; Roz – 26; Dunc – 17; Mike
M – 10.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 15, 2018 08:28:20
As previously mentioned, the title “Up the
Garden Path” has been used elsewhere, in line with some recent correspondences,
Jake has suggested the name “The EGO has landed!”.
Duncan and Naomi’s wedding today. Only
Jonathon and Alex were available to keep up the good work in Hallowe’en Rift. Alex
penned the following summary (edited):
“A diminished but strong team today. It was
initially quite warm underground with little sign of the draught. This was to
Jon and Alex went to the new chamber “The EGO
has landed!” and discussed what best to do. The advice of the sage elders was
ignored, the feckless youths deciding to follow their senses, the draught, and
the moon milk instead! Therefore, Jon started to dig out the floor of the pot,
whilst Alex broke up the boulders from the previous session. Once the boulders
were removed, Jon continued to dig downwards in the pot, and Alex retreated to
the original rift chamber to haul and stack the spoil Jon was removing; Whilst
in between loads, battering the calcite boulder that impinges on the new skip
run. As Jon removed spoil from the pot, the draught returned, and the air
became distinctly chilly again.
After digging ceased, Alex returned to the
chamber to find that at the bottom of the pot, Jon had uncovered a strongly
draughting bedding plane appearing to head due north. 2-3 inches of airspace is
extant in the bedding and it appears to be filled with small rocks, formerly
bedded stal and gravel. This is probably the best prospect for now?
20bags and five skip loads of rocks were
removed to the surface.”
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 11, 2018 06:44:54
With Nick, Jonathon, Jake, Alex, Brockers,
Duncan and Tav.
Nick was digging, Alex on the haul and
shuttle, Tav and I were on the surface, the rest of the team positioned
themselves wherever they needed to be to move spoil out of the cave.
Initially, Tav was hauling and I was emptying
bags and adding rocks to the wall. Then, Alex moved up to the slope and I went
below ground to do the haul and shuttle. Later, Alex returned to do the haul
and I continued with the shuttling, a back-log to clear. As the session was
nearly over, I decided to go up to the end to have a look at progress. We must
have gained c.20m during the last few sessions, in fits and starts maybe but
good progress. From the rift chamber entered 30/06/18, the way forward leads north-east
to east, low c. 0.4m but there is width c.2m, although it does pinch in on either
side, the low passage continues c.10m then further progress is stopped at a
speleothem blocked north to south aligned fissure. Here are some fine fractured
stalactites 100mm to 150mm dia. lying on the floor (?). Although air movement
can be detected at this point, it seems much diminished. A clear direction forward
is not obvious, yet. The current approach through the low passage is minimalist
and requires some further attention, the best way to proceed might then be
better assessed. The glimpse of something to the north is still a possible option,
as is keeping east and following the line of the west to east aligned fissure. Still,
all good stuff and the skip route is much improved.
It was time to leave. 55 skip-loads of spoil –
bags and rocks – were hauled out to the surface, a fine effort for a Tuesday
evening, and another successful outcome, more metres gained.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, July 09, 2018 06:36:43
I was away on Gower this weekend but Tav
penned an account of Saturday’s activity in Hallowe’en (it has been slightly edited).
“Tav, Nick, Jonathan, Jake, Duncan, Brockers
A strong team assembled for what promised to
be a particularly busy session. Three main tasks were planned. First was to
clear the bang debris created the previous Tuesday. Second was to complete
excavation of the crawl to the new chamber discovered last week and install a
new return skip, and third was to begin work on opened the continuation of the
bedding beyond the new rift chamber. This had provisionally been named Up the
Garden Path but as there already is one in Withybrook Slocker it will have to
While Tav set about installing the new skip
and examining the bedding-plane, the rest of the team began removing the bang
debris. Nick was behind Tav, with Jonathan and Jake between him and Duncan, who
was situated at the top of the slippery slope. Brockers drew the short straw
and spent a non-stop session on the haul and shuttle, passing them on to Alex
to haul them out to the surface. Nick then moved up to enlarge the entrance end
of the new skip run, while Tav enlarged the other. This was quickly sorted, and
attention shifted to pushing the pointy end. Using an obvious access point
located to one side of a fake ‘T’old Man’s Wall’, situated immediately above
the pot in the floor, Tav quickly gained 3m of wide and continuing bedding
plane. The possible black space to the north proved to be a mirage – the only
way on being the main route to the east which continued in fine style. Numerous
slabs were quickly removed and sent out of the cave before proceedings were
slowed slightly by a very large flowstone boss, which obstructed access to what
appeared to be more open passage beyond. A combination of Tav, Nick and
especially Jake, eventually persuaded the very large slab to exit the bedding
plane, where it was deposited on the floor above the pot. This allowed Jake to
quickly push forward for a further 2m until the lateness of the hour, coupled
with a call for help to remove a backlog of rocks accumulating further back in
the cave, brought the days digging proceedings to a close. It is estimated that
only a further 15-20 minutes work will be required to enter an open section of
bedding a couple of metres ahead. This looks to be about 3m long with a
possible extension down to the right and the bedding-plane can be seen to
continue beyond – albeit partially choked. A strong draught continues to blow
out, and immediate prospects look very encouraging.
Due to several team members being unavailable
for next weekend it has been suggested that we return on Tuesday night to try
and gain access to the visible space. Alex lost count but estimated that 100
skip loads were removed, two-thirds of which was rock. A solid and positive
session, fully deserving of the usual, if slightly later than normal
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 04, 2018 06:27:18
With Roz and Alex
We arrived at the farm to find that the cows
had escaped from the field and were exploring the yard. We helped to round them
up and persuaded the cows to return to the fields, before getting ready to walk
up to the cave.
After many years of digging, all have gone
down the slippery slope and followed Another Emotional Journey, it now seems
that we are being led Up the Garden Path.
The skip route Up the Garden Path is
obstructed by two boulders and a bulge of rock; 4no. 500mm x 12mm holes were
drilled, 2no. in the bulge and 1no. into each boulder. While this was being
done Roz and Alex carried on to the dig where they dug some more sediment from
the floor and bagged it up. They went through to the end to look at the newly
accessed rift chamber and see the potential ahead for themselves. Alex took
some bearings, confirming that the passage is trending west to east.
When they returned, I could make the
necessary connections, retire to a safe location and bring the evening to a
There will be plenty to clear on the weekend.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 01, 2018 08:42:36
A successful session!
With Tav, Nick, Jonathon, Jake, Duncan and
Me digging, Tav clearing the spoil and
filling bags, then loading the skip to Nick positioned in the intermediate
hauling spot at the beginning of Another Emotional Journey, Jonathon on the not
so slippery slope, Jake and Duncan on the haul and shuttle. Water had been
collected and poured down the haul route facilitating an easier passage of the
skip. Brockers on the surface, wrapped like ‘The Invisible Man’, protection
from the biting, buzzing flies.
At the digging front, much of the spoil
initially comprised slabs of degraded flowstone, coarse gravel to boulder size,
some conglomerate too. Finer sediment was then removed. Forward progress was
quickly made, and I wriggled through into the open passage glimpsed last
session. Some clearing away of slabs of flowstone and I slid into a finely
decorated rift chamber. The chamber aligned east/west, about 4m length, circa
3m at the widest point and up to about 4m high, has some decent flowstone on
the south-side and some small botryoidal formations. The chamber has a gravelly
floor and a ‘lawn’ made-up of thin tree-roots. The floor drops down at the
east-end where there is a small hole, a place we are not to dig. The bedding on
the north-side of the rift chamber continues, low and partially filled with
sediment. Just beyond the pinch point, another phreatic arch looks to go north,
a small gap beyond a mud cone can be seen. To the east, the bedding still goes
on, again low and partially sediment filled, there’s plenty of digging to be
done yet. The initial investigation over returned to the pinch point to enlarge
it and the approach through the bedding. The spoil was again loosened and pushed
back to Tav who bagged and sent the skip on its way to Nick and the journey out
of the cave. Eventually, we had progressed forward, everyone had to shift forward
a position and Nick came-up to join Tav and me at the dig. We’ve probably gained
a good 10 metres this morning. Digging was finished in time for the team to look
at today’s progress. Any suggestions of digging downwards in the rift chamber
were to fall on deaf ears.
Back on the surface, ‘The Invisible Man’ had
hauled 33 bags and 25 skip-loads of rock, according to the Brockers method of
counting whereby, any skips of rock deemed too light are not counted
individually but are added up to make one decent load.
It was almost time for the pub, but we were
temporarily delayed by ‘four damsels in distress’ who had lost their way in the
wood. They were given directions to find the right path and we were able to go
the pub for refreshments.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 24, 2018 07:28:20
With Brockers, Tav, Nick, Jonathon and
A rather subdued Brockers, suffering from a
self-inflicted malady, hung-over, was digging, I was clearing away the filled
bags and rocks, loading the skip to Tav in the intermediate position guiding
the skip on its way to Nick on the slope. Nick transferred the loads to the
next skip down to Jon on the haul and shuttle. Duncan, unable to dive in Wookey
Hole today due to a wedding taking place, had volunteered for surface duties,
not entirely sure whether he was fully aware of the flies, especially on this
fine and very warm morning, stoically he carried on. Alex, unable to dig today
due to surgery, was out on a ramble and paid a brief visit to the cave entrance
before continuing-on his way.
At the dig, Brockers had worked his way into
the bedding and, after some fettling of the skip run, I was able to sit-up in
the little rift chamber and fill bags as Brockers loosened the sediments and
load the skip from there. Some large detached lumps of flowstone were dragged
into the rift where there is room to swing the mini-sledge. After a while,
Brockers reported back that the prospects ahead looked very good and he could
see something to the right-side. The haul and shuttle again difficult due to
the dry conditions had accrued a small backlog, I stopped filling bags, and went
to the end to look. Shifted back some more slabs, inched forward a bit more,
turned on the focused torch, and it does look very good indeed. Just
ahead, to the right, a continuation of the rift appears to be open, probably
another digging session away. To the left, a phreatic tube/arch is seen to
continue, how far is difficult to assess at this time. Called back to Tav and
Nick that they really wanted to come and look, they came, and they were
enthused. Nick couldn’t understand why we were going to the pub but, I was
desperate for a wee. In truth, there’s still quite a bit of digging to be done
to gain access to the passage ahead and make it comfortably workable.
I’ll probably try and come in and apply some
IRS on Tuesday evening. There are a couple of boulders and a bulge of rock that
are impeding easy passage of the skip. It’s getting a long way from the slope
to the dig-face now.
Back on the surface, Duncan had survived the
flies, with copious applications of ‘Skin-so-soft’ and had hauled 64 loads out
of the cave.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 17, 2018 07:32:55
With Jake, Nick, Tav, Alex, Jonathon and
A good team assembled today. Alex forging
ahead, Brockers clearing away the filled bags and occasional rocks to Jake and
the intermediate transfer station, I was on the slope pulling the skip through
to remove the contents, take the spoil up-slope to load into the skip to Tav on
the haul and shuttle with Nick, or so I thought. I had mistakenly suggested to
Nick that, if there was time, he might like to continue opening the low passage
to West Side, and so improve drainage along the haul and shuttle route. The
outcome was, Tav did the haul and shuttle, Jonathon, on the surface had a lot
more bags to haul-out and empty, at least he wasn’t being plagued by clegs
Back at the dig-front, I had to concede, one
of the large boulders impeding the free passage of the skip was manhandled through
and dropped into Tuck Shop, where it can be dealt with later. There’s room to
swing the sledge in the chamber. The other, larger boulder was subjected to a
concerted beating from Jake, but only partially did it succumb. I rolled one
large lump down through Merlin’s to Tav.
The skip along Merlin’s to the haul and
shuttle soon needed to be replaced, the cave has dried out considerably, the
skips will probably wear out even quicker now. The dryness has increased the
drag on the skip and rope requiring a lot of effort to pull the skip along, we
had to resort to one bag at a time.
At the end of the session, Brockers, Jake and
myself all went to the dig-face to peer into the prospects ahead. It does look
enticing, the c.200mm gap over the sediment continues, perhaps 4m is visible at
the present, and there is air movement. Plenty of spoil to shift as well.
Today’s tally was 100 loads out to the
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, June 09, 2018 17:09:40
With Jonathon, Alex, Tav and Brockers.
Jonathon at the sharp end, Alex clearing the
filled bags and rocks, Tav, returned from injury and it’s his birthday, jumped
the queue and was on the slope, Brockers on the haul and shuttle, leaving me on
On the surface, there were flies, lots of
flies, and the clegs seem particularly vociferous this year. I did try applying
plenty of ‘Skin-so-Soft’, but that doesn’t stop them surrounding you and
buzzing, always buzzing. Tried to keep moving around, find a bit of breeze and
avoid standing too close to the entrance until necessary. The clegs appear to
accumulate around the entrance, probably waiting until you are committed to
hauling-out of the cave, then they pounce.
Still I survived, and today’s tally was a
total of 62 loads, comprised 44 bags and 18 skip-loads of rocks. Not all the
spoil came from the end, Brockers busied himself ‘tidying’, the low passage
leading to the West Side receiving special attention.
When the team emerged from the cave, there
was lots of positivity regarding the prospects ahead.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, June 04, 2018 06:37:43
I was away on the Gower this weekend
exploring coastal caves and digging Harry Thomas’s Cave with John Cooper. Alex
sent the following summary of Saturday’s activity in Hallowe’en Rift. I suspect
the team comprised Alex, Jake, Jonathon, Nick and Brockers:
“Dear Vincey On the Gower, I have news about
the shower, and their efforts digging underground today! The Foreman twas quite
mean, also a little green; he forgot the timepiece! which means that there is
overtime to pay! The tally man doth say
the score was 65! some rocks, and an ever-growing void.”
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 27, 2018 14:57:51
With Nick, Jonathon, Alex and a late, but
welcome, appearance by Tom Chapman.
It was my turn to dig this session, Nick was
aiding the clearing of filled bags, assorted rocks and modifying the skip-run.
Jonathon was on the slope and loading the skip to Alex doing the haul and
shuttle to the entrance. Tom had turned-up, without any kit, hauled-out the
spoil and emptied the bags onto the heap.
At the dig-face, things were progressing
satisfactorily, when a small hole opened, from which air movement could be
felt. After a bit more work the hole was large enough to see space beyond. Nick
came through to have a look. Following a more concerted effort, a small rift
chamber could be seen, more digging and eventually, I wriggled through into the
rift chamber. It was c.2.00m long, c.2.00m high and c.0.40m wide, it is blocked
at the eastern extent by a rather fine ‘stal’ boss, more interestingly, to the
left-side (north) a low bedding continued with c.0.25m high space over
sediment, the full extent of the bedding could not be ascertained at this time,
it was from this that the air movement was emanating. It looks a very
interesting prospect indeed, obviously there is a lot of spoil to shift to make
access easier and the way ahead workable. Nick and Jonathon both came through
to take a gander.
As for the skip-run, it is more aesthetically
pleasing to look at but it’s functionality is rather less satisfactory, let’s
say, it is a work in progress!
About 40 bags and, possibly 10 skip-loads of
rocks were hauled out to the surface and added to the spoil-heap. All in all, a
productive morning’s work and it was pub-time.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 20, 2018 07:12:11
With Alex, Brockers and Jonathon.
Alex digging, Brockers clearing away and doing
some tidying-up, I was on the slope and loaded the skip to Jon, on the haul and
shuttle. The bags, and very occasional rocks, were stacked at the bottom of the
At the end of the digging session, 38 bags were hauled-out and emptied, somehow Alex forgot about the rocks, they’ll have to wait until next time.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 13, 2018 07:18:15
With Jake, Tav, Brockers, Alex and Jonathon.
Jonathon digging with assistance from Alex,
who was clearing the filled bags and occasional rocks to Brockers, on the
slope. The spoil, loaded into the skip and I hauled and shuttled the bags and
rocks to the entrance where Jake and Tav were on surface duties. In addition to
hauling spoil from the cave, wall building was continued.
It wasn’t too long before the skip required
replacement, this done, the skip moved smoothly along the passage, a joyful
thing. Ahead, on the digging front, it seems there were a variety of
discussions taking place, such as, the benefits of alternating left-handed and
right-handed diggers in the low passage, and the merits, or demerits, of having two
people in-line that have issues with authority. Never mind, spoil was removed at
a steady pace. I had some time to dig some sediment from the low passage that leads
to the west series, a follow-on from Brockers effort last session, it is hoped the
passage to the east will drain into here.
At the cessation of today’s activities, 51 bags
and 9 skip-loads of rock were hauled out from the cave. The surface team had depleted
the supply of available rocks, we’ll need some more to continue the wall building.
Another productive session, pub-time.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 06, 2018 09:50:50
With Brockers, Jonathon, Alex and Duncan.
As our guest of honour, Duncy got to go
upfront and dig, assisted by Jon, Alex went to the slope, Brockers on the haul
and shuttle and I was on the surface again.
Duncan supplied some insect repellent that
proved to be very effective. It was warm on the surface and there were plenty
of midges and other flying insects but, none bothered me. I managed to get a
good bit of walling done in between hauling and emptying bags, any rocks were
added to the construction too. It was peaceful and rather pleasant on the
surface in the warm sunshine, the leaves now bursting open, a vibrant green,
the birds were singing.
Soon though the session was over, 60 bags had
been emptied, 11 skip-loads of rock added to the wall. It was thirsty work and
refreshments were eagerly anticipated, time for the Hunter’s.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 29, 2018 07:20:24
With Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Alex.
After missing a digging session last weekend,
due to a variety of reasons, the team re-assembled to return to the fray.
Jake upfront digging aided by Nick, Jonathon
was on the slope clearing away the filled bags and rocks, loading them into the
skip at the top of the slope to Alex, on the haul and shuttle. After doing the
digging last session, it was my turn on the surface.
I had mistakenly thought that the cooler
weather recently would result in an absence of midges, I was wrong, in the
shelter of the woods, the entrance to HR seems to have its own micro-climate,
it was still and warm, and there were midges, lots of them. That aside, I did
manage to get some rocks added to the wall before the flow of bags and rocks
from below ground became a bit too regular. The task of hauling the spoil up
the entrance wasn’t made any easier by the claggy, slippery rope.
Today’s total count was 73 loads out to the surface;
64 bags were emptied and 9 loads of rocks, most of which had been added to the wall,
some interesting pieces were put to one side for examination later.
Another productive digging session.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 15, 2018 07:36:52
With Jake, Jonathon and Ray Deasy.
An, otherwise, small team assembled bolstered by the unexpected, but welcome, arrival of the antipodean contingent - Ray.
At the end of the current focus of attention, I was digging, filling bags and removing rocks, passing the spoil back to Ray, who was clearing and loading the skip to Jake, on the slope. Jonathon was at the top of the slope, where the bags and rocks were stored, ready for removal later.
Initially, I opened-up a small connection back towards the slope, this will allow for an easier passage of the skip. There is a lump of rock causing an obstruction that will require some attention, another trip in with the capping kit will sort this out. That done, attention was concentrated on making some forward progress. Although awkward in the constricted space, it is enjoyable digging. There is some clear space over the top of the sediment, but it is small, we are, at present, following a fine, phreatic arched ceiling. Every now and then, some fractured stalactites are found within the sediments, along with sections of detached, broken calcite floor.
Digging isn't speedy in the rather snug passage, there is some air movement, Ray wearing cotton overalls was getting a bit chilled as the session progressed. It was soon time to move back and clear the spoil from the cave. I was amazed at the tidiness of Jon's bag stacking and the temporary drystone wall created from the rocks removed. Today's total, out to the surface was 30 bags and 10 skip-loads of rocks.
Another fine well-being session for the OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Diggers!
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, April 10, 2018 06:32:51
With Jonathon, Alex, Jake, Tav and Nick.
Tav digging, Nick clearing, I was on the slippery slope, Jake at the top, Alex on the haul and shuttle, leaving Jon on the surface.
On arrival at the end, we discovered, there had been a bit of a slump on the slippery slope, a large flake of rock had become detached and was now lying on the slope. It was an obstruction, that took a combined effort from me and Jake to ease down into Tuck Shop, along with another smaller rock that had also fallen. That done, we settled down to some steady spoil removal. Occasionally, the odd bag was topped-up with some of the loose sediment that the rockfall had brought down. At the end of the session, 52 bags and 10 skip-loads of rock had been hauled-out to the surface. Another good effort, the digging at the end is, somewhat, constricted.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 01, 2018 08:19:00
With Alex, Jake, Nick, Tav, Jonathon and Brockers.
The Magnificent Seven. Jonathon digging, Tav clearing, Brockers and Nick on the slippery slope, I was hauling, Alex doing the shuttle, leaving Jake on the surface, in the rain, and feeling hungover after a night of over-indulgence.
The has been a lot of rain recently, throughout the cave there are plenty of very active drips, and it was squalid...very squalid. Each skip arriving accompanied by a wave of slurry. I got quite chilly sat in a puddle of thick muddy water.
The skip, of course, needed to be replaced, not an easy task to free-up the muddy knots, but it was done. A grand total of 51 bags and 22 skip-loads of rock out to the surface. Most of the rock removed comprised 25mm to 75mm thick calcite, the remnants of a false floor situated between sediment comprising silty fine sand.
By the time we had all exited the cave the rain had ceased, we made our way down to the farm, then to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 25, 2018 09:42:36
With Jake, Jonathon, Tav, Nick, Brockers and
A good team turn-out today. Jake went ahead
to start digging, with Tav assisting. They were followed by Jonathon, Nick and
Brockers, Alex and I remained on the surface. While Alex hauled the spoil from
the cave, I went dry-stone walling, continuing the reconstruction of the
The bags started to come from the cave at a
good rate, the reason being, Nick had started digging somewhere along the
approach passage. Alex didn’t have much time to empty the bags, so I stopped
wall building and went to help-out.
About 70 bags and a dozen or so skip-loads of
rock were hauled-out of the cave, about 40 of the bags were from the ‘official’
The focus of attention has switched to a
route that leads over the top of Another Emotional Journey (AEJ), an area we paid
some attention to in 2014 (I checked the log-book), before getting side-tracked
by a hole in the floor and followed that downwards, eventually emptying out quite
a large chamber, that is now connected to AEJ. It is, however, much easier to get
to now, and spoil removal will be far more efficient.
At the end of the session, Jake was suitably impressed,
and enthusiastic, by progress and the prospects ahead. The dig, a partially choked
phreatic arch with some fine scalloping in the roof, the sediment fill is a mixture
of sandy silt and thin calcite ‘false’ floor, there is a gap over the top, c.100-150mm
height, the direction is trending east. Sounds very interesting.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, March 19, 2018 07:17:02
I was attending a BCRA Cave Science workshop on cave climate at Pooles Cavern, Buxton, Derbyshire so unavailable for digging. However, other team members were in attendance, this witty ditty was penned by Tav:
The Ballad of Hallowe’en Rift
by Bard Senseless
For the log of Hallowe’en
On this day, March Seventeen
Four hardy souls did brave the beast
Descending earthwards from the east
Through horizontal rain and sleet
They battled on with frozen feet
To reach the safety of the mound
From whence they vanished underground
Jon was on the slippery slope
Brockers up front diggin’
Jake in darkness in between
Tav on haul and sleddin’
For two hours they did all they could
Until the final tally stood
At 22 bags and 4 of rocks
Lord bless their little cotton socks
Then up to empty out the spoil
The product of their worthy toil
A-shivering’ in the icy blast
They spoke of hopes for caverns vast
Does it go then? Does it bugger
Then quick lads to the Hunters’ fast
Then home to watch the rugger
Which was shit by the way.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 11, 2018 09:13:47
With Nick, Brockers, Jake, Jonathon and Matt.
Digging resumed after a brief postponement due to last week's snowy weather.
Scratched around for a while at the end of Another Emotional Journey (AEJ). Here, the fissure has become choked with calcite and the lower bedding appears to pinch-out. The rest of today's session was spent excavating another narrow fissure on the north-side of AEJ. The silt fill become silty sand at the base, and is also calcified here. There is some space at the top, but this doesn't appear to develop further, at this stage. Filled c.40 bags. At the end of the digging session, Jake and myself had a discussion, we thought that it would be an idea to try digging along the bedding, over the top of AEJ.
On the surface, Jonathon relayed the count for the day, c.50 bags and c.10 skip-loads of rock, Nick had been busy elsewhere, 'tidying' along the approach passage.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, February 27, 2018 06:20:57
I was away this weekend attending a workshop 'Integrated Microscopy Approaches in Archaeobotany' at the University of Reading. And, very good it was too.
However, there was an attendance at Hallowe'en Rift. Nick penned the following summary:
" A four-man team, Brockers, Jake, Matt and Nick, assembled.
After the usual pre-session discussions on the inappropriate actions of all those not present digging commenced. It was Nick at the face, Jake, then Brockers and Matt in the newly designated ‘Spastic Spot’ at the top of the slippery slope. There were 10 loads of rocks hauled out and 30 bags of mud and gravel. When the production rate slowed, Nick continued digging while the others moved outwards to clear the cave. The way on, well, it’s sort of lacking an air space, and isn’t the most compelling lead, but we have seen worse! 4 full bags were left in the cave. A retreat towards the Hunters was made in a timely manner, i.e. early."
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 21, 2018 06:06:57
Straight-up to the current focus of attention to continue the expansion of the fissure; 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, were drilled and filled. While I was doing that, Brockers replaced another of the skips and fettled the wire. All preparation and other tasks completed, the evenings work was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 18, 2018 11:28:57
With Jake, Jon and Tav.
A small team for a Saturday again, no bother, still plenty to keep us occupied.
On arrival at the farm, it appears that the 'Bambi-Man' is not pleased with us and had left us a little note:
Some people are so tetchy about their 'sheds on wheels'!
At the end of Another Emotional Journey, I went ahead to check Tuesday's effort before Jon started digging, all was good. Tav was second in-line, on the long-drag back to load the skip to me, on the slippery slope, where I man-handled the bags and rocks up-slope and loaded the skip to Jake, on the haul and shuttle. As usual, the spoil was stashed at the bottom of the entrance rift, to be removed later.
The 'mud-crete' had set, making a smoother drag-run for the skip, although the skip eventually succumbed, and a replacement was required, the skip had been in a poor state before today's effort began.
It was another good steady session and a total of 58 loads were cleared-out to the surface; 41 bags and 17 skips of rocks.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 14, 2018 07:11:24
Always good to have some company and a helping hand with the kit.
At the current end of Another Emotional Journey, another 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, were drilled and filled, continuing the expansion of the narrow fissure.
While I was doing the drilling and things, Jake practiced his alchemist arts, combining sloppy sediment and cement to create 'mud-crete', this was then used to fill the deeper divots, near to the bridge over the pot, along the haul route. This will ease the passage, and prolong the life, of the skips. There were some tricky moves required on the way out with the wire to avoid the repairs.
The evenings work was brought to a satisfactory conclusion, this resulted in disturbing the peaceful slumbers of the roosting pheasants in the trees near to the cave entrance.
It was a cold, frosty evening, the stars were good though.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 11, 2018 08:53:53
With Jake, Jonathon and Tav.
A smaller team assembled at the Hunter's on another wet Saturday morning, ready to go digging.
At Hallowe'en Rift, while I opened the gate, the others packed bags prior to going underground. Jake, then went ahead to start bailing before digging, there were a few bags at the end left-over from Thursday evening. Jonathon was next in-line, clearing the filled bags and occasionally rocks, along Another Emotional Journey, loading the skip to Tav. The haul through from Another Emotional Journey. Photographed by Mike Moxon.
With the smaller team size, Tav had the double-handling task of hauling the spoil from Jon, then up the slippery slope to transfer the spoil to the skip down to me, on the haul and shuttle. Brockers at the top of the slope. Photographed by Mike Moxon.
The bags were then, stacked neatly in the entrance rift ready to be hauled out later, the few stones were put to one-side. A steady pace was maintained through the session, some of the bags seemed like they were going to be a joy to empty. Then, it was time to all move back and clear the spoil from the cave, up-top it was still raining but not too heavily. We took it in turns to haul the loaded skip up the rift, the rope wet and very muddy, making it slippery and difficult to grip. Once on the surface, the bags weren't too much of a problem to empty. The count for the session was 49 bags (or 50, if you prefer rounded-up numbers) and a few skip-loads of stones.Jon in Another Emotional Journey. Photographed by Mike Moxon.
As it did on Thursday, as soon as we were back at the shed, it rained heavily. Time for the pub, then rugby (6 Nations).
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, February 09, 2018 06:41:37
With Jonathon, Mike M, Brockers, Duncan and Tav.
At the end of Another Emotional Journey, I cleared the debris that resulted from Tuesday evenings effort, Jon shifting the rocks and bags filled with gravel along the rift to load the skip to Mike, on the slippery slope. Brockers, at the top of the slope, transferred the debris into the skip down to Duncan, on the haul and shuttle. Tav was on the surface. As usual, this wet winter, bailing was required before the digging activities commenced.
A total of 41 loads were moved-out to the surface, 14 skip-loads of rocks and 27 bags of gravel and finer sediment were emptied.
We arrived back at the shed just in time, the skies opened, and it bucketed down, again!
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, February 07, 2018 06:09:18
Drove over the hill in quite a flurry of snow.
Underground, at the end of Another Emotional Journey, continued with the expansion of the rift, 4no. holes, 550mm x 12mm, all nicely charged and tamped, rolled out the wire and the evening, brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
The snow, by now, had turned to sleet and come to, not much.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, February 04, 2018 07:48:10
With Nick, Jake and Jonathon.
For one reason or another, a smaller team today.
Nick's turn to dig, after bailing of course, Jake clearing away, it's getting a long way now, the rift is c.10m in length and progressing. I was on the slope, man-handling the bags and occasional rocks to the top where, due to the size of the team, I loaded the skip to Jon, on the haul and shuttle, the bags and stones being stacked in the entrance rift.
Jake had cut-up a piece of quarry conveyor belt to fit inside the skip and provide some cushioning, this seems to have prolonged the life of the skip and it didn't need replacing this session.
At the end of the digging, I went to the end to assess whether some induced rapid speleogenesis would be required in the mid-week. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a small space had been revealed, Nick commented that air movement could be detected, it's always encouraging to have space to follow. As for IRS, it will be done, keeps the working space more comfortable and spoil removal better managed.
As usual, the last task of the session was to haul-out the bags and empty them, the stones were cleared-out too. Today's tally: forty-two bags and half a dozen skip-loads of stones.
Today's refreshments had been earned!
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, February 02, 2018 06:28:20
With Jonathon, Jake, Brockers, Nick and Duncan.
Initially, I went to the end, reeling in the wire as I progressed, to check the results of Tuesday evenings effort. It had done just what it was supposed to do. Satisfied, I turned back and took up position on the haul and shuttle. Brockers, after bailing out the pond, was upfront, aided by Nick, who was clearing back to Jake on the slope, Duncan was up top loading the skip to me. That left Jonathon on the surface, hauling and emptying.
After not very long, I had to replace the skip, we are wearing them out at an alarming rate, the plastic used to form the drums is not very resilient, probably something to do with biodegradability. Later, at the end of the session Jake mentioned the replacement skip was already worn-out. Changing the skip caused a backlog of spoil and it wasn't too long before the team decided to move back and get the cave cleared out, I went up to the surface to join Jonathon.
The total count for this evening, 49 loads out to the surface, 25 skip-loads of rock and 24 bags.
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, January 31, 2018 06:16:33
After a decent dry day...it's still wet and muddy underground!
Continuing the expansion works at the current end of Another Emotional Journey. Drilled 4no. 550mm x 12mm holes on the left-side of the rift. It's so much better with some assistance, keeps the kit that bit cleaner. The evening was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
We stopped in at the Hunter's on the way home, well, churlish not to!
digging 2018Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, January 28, 2018 08:49:25
With Brockers, Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Tav.
Jon digging, Tav, back into action after a few weeks off, was clearing back to Nick, on the slope, Jake, up-top, loading the skip to Brockers on the haul and shuttle. Surface duties for me.
While waiting for the first bags to arrive, cleared-out a broken branch and re-located the pterodactyl to a new branch. Then the bags started to arrive, I can't say they were a joy to empty, but it was okay. The rain, which didn't let-up all morning, kept the haul rope usable, it didn't become caked in mud, which usually means it is difficult to grip. Odd thing, at 40, 50 and 60 loads out, an especially heavy bag or two, the old back was not a fan of these. On one occasion, I heard some grumbling from below, the skip that had been replaced on Tuesday evening had already failed and needed another skip to take its place. Getting the frayed ends of the haul rope through the holes is never easy when everything has a liberal coating of mud.
The final count 74 loads out to the surface, 67 filled bags, all emptied, and 7 skip loads of stones, waiting to be used in the wall. Another fine session.